Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

Islam & Judaism

Part II

Islam’s Surrender

It was a brutal merciless example which was followed again and again for centuries during the expansion of Islam. In fact, the "right" to violate solemnly concluded peace agreements taken from the case of the Qurayza is cited often by Yasir Arafat as allowing him to abrogate his peace treaty with Israel at will.

Strengthened by his victory over the Jewish tribes of Medinah, Mohammed turned against the powerful Jewish garrison town of Khaybar in the Arabian Peninsula, where Jewish refugees from Mohammed’s raids elsewhere had sought refuge. Mohammed won the battle, and the Jewish population of Khaybar was sent to flee for their safety. Many former Khaybar Jews populated Eretz Yisrael and other areas in the Middle East.

Based on his victory over the Jews, Mohammed’s reputation spread widely and left fear in the hearts of country after country. The rapid spread of Islam was remarkable. It was only after he had vanquished the Jews, that Mecca, his home town, surrendered to him in 630. Two years later, Mohammed died, but his successors spread out over much of the then known world, bringing Moslem armies as deep into Europe as Southern France, and the whole Balkans in Eastern Europe. In many of these battles, especially in Spain, local Jews helped the Moslem armies, as they had suffered great hardships under the Christian rulers before them.

Jewish Influence On Islam

The composition of the Koran points to very heavy Jewish influences, since it proves some knowledge, not only of the Jewish Biblical accounts, but also of Talmud Midrashic material.

The five basic Moslem commandments include some which even in their names are clearly taken from the Jews. The "Haj" or pilgrimage is taken from the "Hag," the festivals of pilgrimage in the Torah, Tzedakot, for alms, is taken from the Hebrew Tzedaka; Shahada, the testimony to Allah being the only G-d and Mohammed his prophet, is a word taken from the Hebrew-Aramaic Sahaduta, occurring to the Bible. The "Five Daily Prayers" are probably taken from the Yom Kippur service which consists of five prayers. The word for "prayer" is Tzalutah which is taken from Talmudic-Aramaic Tselutha.

The question of Jewish influences on minute details in Islam has been studied by scholars for over one hundred (100) years. The pioneer was Abraham Gelger, who in 1832 submitted the seminal, epoch-making study Judaism and Islam, originally written in Latin, and translated into many languages and still a guide in research on the subject.

Among later detailed studies is the doctoral dissertation of Rabbi Jacob Hoffman, submitted before World War I.

Stories Borrowed From The Jews

Arabia is known for its legends and fairy tales. No wonder that Mohammed was fascinated by the Biblical and Midrashic stories circulating among the Jews of Medinah and the other towns where he lived. Mohammed was fascinated by the story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar. He dedicated an entire chapter, called a Sura, to this story. There we find that story of how Potiphar’s wife invited her lady friends, served them fruits with knives, and then ushered in Joseph. His beauty was so dazzling that the ladies cut their fingers with their knives. Potiphar’s wife then justified her own lust for Joseph by this incident.

In some instances, the stories are distorted and corrupted from the original text. For example, Moslems are convinced that it was not Isaac, but Ishmael whom G-d asked Abraham to sacrifice. They will argue that the Jews were the ones who changed the text, even though our own tradition is thousands of years older than theirs. Some Biblical laws are also corrupted: e.g. on divorce Islam rules that a man, after he has divorced his wife for the second time, can only remarry her, if meanwhile she has married a second husband and been divorced by him too. That clearly is based on Deuteronomy but has been distorted.

Moslems & Jews -- Then & Now

As the early history of Islam shows, the first Moslems were very few, and were logically worried that their fledgling religion would be dissolved in the great, old religions, Judaism and Christianity. In order to protect themselves against this risk, Mohammed and his early followers had to create antipathy, suspicion and hatred against the majority religion. This, in fact, helped them overcome their adversaries and gave them victories over the other nations. The grotesque presentations of Jews in the early Moslem writings are a reflection, not of the actual truth but of the perception which Mohammed had to create about his adversaries.

This explanation points to a totally different perception which could easily be adopted today . Now that Islam is so firmly established in vast parts of the world, and Islam is recognized as one of the leading religions of the world, what are they afraid of? There is no danger of proselytizing certainly not from the Jews. Therefore, they should shed that bizarre caricature of Jews which they fabricated over 1,000 years ago and instead, recognize Jews for what they really are without jealousy and suspicion.

Maybe future reasonable Moslem theologians will follow this reasoning and thereby arrive at a new attitude towards Jews, which could lead to peaceful coexistence. It is therefore of highest priority for Jews to study Islam and the Koran and Moslem history, so that a new approach can be documented and defended.




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